This report covers the period January to December 2018 and outlines TBC’s progress based on the organisation’s Strategic Directions for Thailand and Burma/Myanmar 2017–2019. TBC’s programmes reached more than 138,000 men, women, and children—about 91,0003 in nine refugee camps in Thailand, and 47,000 in 190 village tracts in south eastern Burma/Myanmar.
With signiǻ cant impediments to the peace process occurring during the year, the overall situation in Burma/Myanmar continued to be fragile. The Government of Union of Myanmar (GoUM) demonstrated little political will and authority to advance legislative and policy reforms. Myanmar’s Armed Forces (the Tatmadaw) asserted wider control, especially in the ethnic armed areas. Clearance operations and artillery attacks in Kachin, Northern Shan, and northern Karen States in 2018 displaced over 34,000 people. In the west, the 2017 Rakhine crisis drove a massive number of refugees to Bangladesh who still were not able to return during 2018.
As a response to the situation in Rakhine State, the international donor community has been revisiting its priorities in engaging with Burma/Myanmar. The Independent International FactFinding Mission identiǻ ed international humanitarian law violations in Rakhine, Kachin, and Shan States and made strong recommendations to hold the country’s military to account.
The GoUM continued to restrain the freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, with 33 people serving prison sentences and another 311 awaiting trial for exercising their civil and political rights. These included two Reuters journalists sentenced to seven years in prison for violating a State Secrets Act while investigating atrocities against the Rohingya.
After multiple schedule changes, the third session of the Union Peace Conference took place in early July 2018. Almost all of the non-signatory ethnic armed organisations (EAOs) joined as observers, but the conference resulted in only 14 new principles being added to the 37 already agreed for the Union Accord. The lack of progress is attributed to the Tatmadaw’s intention that the EAOs join the National Armed Forces. However, the EAOs seek constitutional amendments for political reform and wider security sector reform prior to any demobilisation.
Thailand has remained under military rule since the coup in 2014, with elections postponed until March 2019. Over the past year, however, RTG has initiated discussions regarding asylum seekers, refugees, and stateless persons in Thailand and was considering how to streamline the process to regularise migrant labour in the country.
At the end of December, 86,864 refugees remained in camps. During the year, 3,481 people returned to Burma/Myanmar, 2,354 departed for third country resettlement, and around 2,352 left the camps to seek alternatives in Thailand. There were 1,935 children born in the camps over the year.
Throughout the year, TBC focused on increasing the integration of its programmes for food security, nutrition, shelter, and camp management, with an emphasis on serving the most vulnerable people in the communities. This focus continued in parallel with preparedness initiatives for voluntary return, resettlement, and reintegration in Burma/Myanmar. The Food Card System (FCS) programme, oǺ ering essential food support in a more digniǻ ed way and giving refugees more control over their resources, was expanded to two additional camps, thus building resilience in preparation for life outside the camps.
Expenses for 2018 were THB 592M (USD 18.5M) against a budget of THB 610M (USD 19M), reǼ ecting various downsizing/cost-cutting measures, as well as lower-than-expected commodity prices for most food supplies. TBC’s operating budget for 2019 is THB 545M (USD 17M).
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